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Akeley police chief under investigation; placed on paid leave

Eric Klein

Akeley police chief Eric Klein has been placed on administrative leave after it came to light he was allegedly conducting criminal background checks on council members and spouses.

Mayor Jennifer Mitchell announced the decision at the end of this week's council meeting to place Klein on paid leave. She offered no further information on what drove the decision.

The council has scheduled a closed meeting at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19 to meet with city attorney Steve Bolton on the matter.

Hubbard County Sheriff Frank Homer said the matter is under investigation as to whether he was using the information in "a manner that was rightful or outside his scope of duty."

Homer said accessing criminal history via the court system is legal; it's considered public information. Police are qualified to run specific criminal histories if the information is to be used for law enforcement purposes.

Klein allegedly shared information with members of the public.

Klein did not attend the meeting nor did he submit a monthly police report. His hours were cut to 20 at the end of December as a cost-saving measure for the city.

This follows action by the council earlier this month disallowing citizen "ride-alongs" with Akeley police officers, after an incident in December involving part-time officer Travis Carlson.

Carlson had asked his passenger to drive the patrol car and meet him when he was attempting to apprehend suspects with outstanding warrants. He argued under state law he could direct a civilian to assist him in effecting an arrest.

The council disagreed.

Klein had drafted the procedural directive for ride-alongs and had approved allowing the passenger in the patrol car.

Carlson was placed on administrative leave after the incident. He is no longer employed by the city.

In other action, the council:

-Approved monthly transfer of funds to the general fund, "as a means to reduce the levy."

This includes $500 from the liquor fund, $120 from the park fund, $400 from the sewer fund and $200 from the water fund.

-Agreed 80 percent of pull tab rent proceeds received from Eastern Hubbard County Fire District will be deposited in the liquor store fund, 20 percent in the community fund.

Up until now, 100 percent was deposited in the liquor store fund.

-Reported a liquor store gross income of $4,657 in 2009,with a negative income of $8,203 in December.

-Named council assignments, department commissioners in 2010.

Mitchell will serve as personnel, finance and administration commissioner, economic development commissioner and represent the city on an Audrey's Purple Dream committee.

Clifford Johnson was designated acting mayor, public streets commissioner, Horizons commissioner and civil defense director.

Troy Hegg will serve on the fire board and Housing and Redevelopment Authority, as public events commissioner and represent the council on the C&C and Hay Days and Paul Bunyan Days committees.

Frank Thelin will also represent the city on the fire board.

Terry Chalich is liquor and ordinance commissioner.